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Seacliff State Parks on the Beach - Guide to Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California

Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California (in Santa Cruz County)

Seacliff is a California State Beach located off Highway 1 in the town of Aptos about 5 miles (8 km) south of Santa Cruz, on State Park Drive. The beach is most known for the concrete ship SS Palo Alto lying in the water. North of Seacliff State Beach is New Brighton State Beach.

This beach is known for its fishing pier and concrete freighter, The Palo Alto. Unfortunately, the ship is unsafe and closed to the public. Only the pier is open for fishing. The beach is also a popular swimming spot. There is a long stretch of sand backed by bluffs. There is a covered picnic facility. The park also has an interpretive center.

Wildlife Habitats in Seacliff State Beach

Much as a reef does, the Palo Alto attracts an immense variety of marine life within its concrete wreckage, and many of the same animals found on rocky shores live on its concrete sides. Mussels, barnacles, sea stars, sea anemones, ocean worms and rock crabs all cling to the sides of the ship and pier. Harbor seals line the deck, while pelicans and cormorants perch on the bow. Anglers catch sole, flounder, mackerel, halibut, lingcod, cabezon, jacksmelt, perch, anchovy, bocaccio (tomcod), kingfish, and occasionally salmon and steelhead from the pier. During summer and early fall, sooty shearwaters— small, dark seabirds—arrive by the tens of thousands from as far south as New Zealand, soaring in figure eights over the water, searching for anchovies. Sea lions, harbor seals, dolphins, sea otters and whales also visit the area.

Camping in Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach and New Brighton State Beach Map

Seacliff State Beach and New Brighton State Beach Map

During the mid-1920s, landowners built summer homes on the bluffs above the beach at Seacliff and named the area south of Seacliff, Rio del Mar. On the other side of Seacliff, tourists enjoyed deluxe camping facilities. Seacliff became one of California’s first state beaches in 1931. Today beachfront camping at Seacliff is for recreational vehicles only, and picnicking, fishing and docent-led walks are among the most popular activities. The main entrance to Seacliff is from State Park Drive, off Highway 1 in Aptos, 5.5 miles south of Santa Cruz.

State park regulations prohibit climbing the sandstone cliffs and digging or collecting fossils, but Seacliff State Beach offers guided walks to view these relics of a long-ago ancient sea. Children’s activities include arts and crafts that Sea lions highlight Seacliff’s story. Camping is a popular activity at Seacliff, and many campsites have hookups. Campfire and Junior Ranger programs are offered at New Brighton during the summer.

State Beach Restrictions:

• Day-use hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. from May 1 to October 31 and 8:00 a.m. to 1/2 hour after sunset from November 1 to April 30. Campground quiet hours are from 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.
• Rollerblading and skateboarding are not allowed.
• The speed limit is 15 mph. Watch out for children, pedestrians and bicycles.
• Vehicles are not allowed on gravel or dirt walkways.
• Dogs (where allowed) must be on a leash no longer than six feet and always attended by their owners.
• Do not feed or leave food out for wildlife.
• A fishing license is not required to fish from the pier, but Department of Fish and Game limits apply.
• Alcohol is not allowed on the beach or in the day-use areas.
• Fires are not allowed on Seacliff’s beach. At New Brighton and Rio del Mar, fires must be confined to fire rings provided and attended at all times.
• No wood gathering. Purchase firewood at the entrance station or at the camp host site.
• No more than two vehicles will be permitted in each campsite.

Below is the detailed camping map of Seacliff State Beach and camping rules can be found here. Also, here is brochue of Seacliff State Beach.

Seacliff State Beach Campground Map

Seacliff State Beach Campground Map

Seacliff Hiking Trail in Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach in Capitola, California

Seacliff Trail Hiking Map in State Beach (in Santa Cruz County)

From New Brighton State Beach to Seacliff State Beach
is 3 miles round trip; longer beach walks possible

Just south of Santa Cruz, two lovely strands with British-sounding names located on Monterey Bay beckon the beach-walker. Both New Brighton and Seacliff State Beaches host lots of swimmers, surfers and campers.

New Brighton's half mile long beach is backed by bluffs forested with cypress and Monterey pine. Raccoons, deer and other animals inhabit this wooded upland as well as the park's grassy coastal terrace where the campground and picnic area are situated. Migrating monarch butter?ies winter in the park's groves.

Seacliff's most obvious attraction is its odd pier. This pier begins traditionally enough with a 500-foot long wooden structure protruding into Monterey Bay; its extension, however, is something to behold. The wood pier connects to the scuttled Palo Alto, a World War I-era supply ship. A group of coastal entrepreneurs purchased the vessel in 1929, then sank the ship at the end of the pier. The Palo Alto was then remodeled into an amusement center complete with carnival booths, dance hall, restaurant and swimming pool.

The renovated plank part of the pier is popular with anglers hoping to hook halibut, perch, ?ounder and more. The pier's far end is reserved for resting and roosting seabirds, including pelicans and cormorants. Migrating California gray whales can frequently be glimpsed from the pier.

Seacliff State Beach has a small visitors center (open Wednesday through Sunday) featuring exhibits that interpret Monterey Bay's natural history.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 1 in Santa Cruz, drive four miles south and exit at Park Avenue. Head south 0.1 mile, turn left, then after another 0.1 mile turn right into New Brighton State Beach.

You can begin this walk up on the bluffs by the picnic area or from the day-use parking area just above the beach at New Brighton's west end. An access road leads under a train trestle to China Cove, the site of a 19thcentury Chinese-American ?shing camp.

The hike: If you begin from the bluffs, join the 0.2 mile beach access trail (stairs and a path) that drops to the beach. Those embarking from the China Cove trailhead will simply descend a ?ight of stairs or the park's access road to the beach.

Walk down-coast (that's east along this section of Monterey Bay). After a half mile or so, you'll beach-comb beyond the New Brighton State Beach boundary, then soon traipse onto Seacliff State Beach. Private residences line the cliffs above.

The near-view is dominated by the Seacliff Pier while more distant vistas, on fog-free days, encompass the Monterey Peninsula. What looks like a motor home sales lot above the beach is actually a state park "En Route" Campground.

Walk onto the curious Seacliff Pier and gaze down-coast. If you're in the mood for a longer walk, hit the beach. Otherwise, return the way you came.

Significance of Seacliff Seacliff State Beach

In 1910 a Norwegian civil engineer named Fougner thought of using concrete to build ships. It wasn't until 1917, when wartime steel shortages required the use of cement for construction that Fougner's idea was used. Three concrete ships were built. Two, the Peralta and the Palo Alto, were built at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, California while the third, the Faith, was built in a shipyard in Redwood City, California. The Peralta and the Palo Alto were built for wartime use as tankers, however World War One ended before ship construction was finished -- so they were never used.

The Palo Alto remained docked in Oakland until 1929, when the Cal-Nevada Company bought the ship with the idea of making her into an amusement and fishing ship. Her maiden voyage was made under tow to Seacliff State Beach. Once positioned at the beach, the sea cocks were opened and the Palo Alto settled to the ocean bottom. By the summer of 1930 a pier had been built leading to the ship, the ship was remodeled. A dance floor on the main deck was added, also a cafe in the superstructure was built, as was a fifty-four foot heated swimming pool, and a series of carnival type concessions were placed on the afterdeck. The Cal-Nevada Company went broke after two seasons -- then the Palo Alto was stripped, leaving the ship and the pier to be used only for fishing.

Nearby State Parks to Seacliff State Beach

• Sunset State Beach, 16 miles south
of Santa Cruz (831) 763-7062
• Manresa State Beach, 13 miles south
of Santa Cruz (831) 761-1795
• Twin Lakes State Beach, near the Santa
Cruz Small Craft Harbor (831) 427-4868

Location of Seacliff State Beach

The Seacliff State Beach is located at 36°58'20"N 121°54'50"W. The Seacliff State Beach is in the town of Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. The beach can be reached by Take the State Park Drive exit from Highway One in the neighborhood of Aptos. The Seacliff State Beach address is 743 Las Olas Dr, Aptos, CA 95003. Seacliff State Beach can be contacted at (831) 685-6442 and reservations at 1-800-444-7275.

Here is a driving map to Seacliff State Beach.

View Larger Map

Here is a detailed list of other state beaches of California besides Seacliff State Beach.

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